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Sick leave bill advances in General Assembly

Sick leave bill advances in General Assembly
Advocates for a bill to require companies to provide paid sick leave to workers greet delegates and senators outside the State House on Thursday morning. (Pamela Wood / The Baltimore Sun)

A bill that would require Maryland employers to provide many of their workers the opportunity to earn paid sick time cleared a key hurdle in the General Assembly Thursday.

The House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee voted 14-9 to send the measure to the full chamber for consideration. The House could take it up next week.

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The bill would require companies with at least 15 employees to offer up to seven days of paid sick leave to full-time workers per year. Smaller companies would have to offer unpaid sick leave.

Part-time workers would earn sick leave based on the hours they work.

"I'm very excited that we've gotten this far again," said Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who is the lead sponsor of the bill.

The bill has been designated House Bill 1, which signals its place as a top priority of the Democratic leadership in the legislature.

Last year, a version of the legislation cleared the House but got hung up in the Senate and failed to pass, though negotiations went down to the final day of the 90-day General Assembly session.

Clippinger said the bill is moving forward earlier this year and there's been "substantial movement" in the Senate in favor of the bill.

The Senate Finance Committee held a public hearing on the bill, but has not yet voted. A total of 24 of the Senate's 47 members are cosponsors of the bill.

Most of the votes against the bill in the House committee came from Republicans, who expressed concern that requiring sick leave would be a burden for employers.

"It's just one more cumulative effect against small businesses," said Del. Seth Howard, an Anne Arundel County Republican.

Del. Warren Miller, a Howard County Republican, said he preferred Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's sick leave proposal. The governor's bill would require sick leave at companies with at least 50 employees. A tax credit would be offered to smaller companies that voluntarily provide sick leave.

"I think the tax credit was somewhat innovative," Miller said.

Lawmakers have held hearings on Hogan's bill, dubbed the "Commonsense Paid Leave Act," but have not taken any action.

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